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History through Textual Criticism: Tibetan Tantric Buddhism in the Tangut Kingdom (1032-1227), Mongol Yuan (1206-1368) and Chinese Ming (1368-1644) Dynasties

Wed, Apr 3, 4:00 pm
Redbud Room, Indiana Memorial Union

It has long been argued that Tibetan Buddhism was popular within and outside of the Court of the Great Khans during the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1206-1368). However, our understanding is confined to a small number of fictional passages within Gengshen Waishi 《庚申外史》(an unofficial history of the last ruler of the Yuan, Toɤon Temür) and its distorted copy in Yuanshi 《元史》(the official history of Yuan). By the end of the Yuan, the image of Tibetan Buddhist practice at court was of a highly corrupt and sexualized set of rituals. Tibetan Lamas were condemned as scapegoats of the rapid destruction of the Yuan Empire in both Chinese historical and literary traditions.

But an examination of a variety of sources—especially Chinese translations of Tibetan tantric materials—allows for a fuller and more accurate reading of the situation over the long period from the Tangut Xixia Dynasty up through the Ming Era.

Weirong Shen received his Ph. D. in Central Asian Language and Cultural Studies from Bonn University, Germany, and is professor of Tibetan and Buddhist history at Renmin University of China in Beijing. His primary interests include the religious history of Tibetans, Mongols, Tanguts, Uygursand Han Chinese during 11th to 15th centuries. His recent works have focused on the history of Tibetan tantric Buddhism in Central Eurasia and China Proper through textual criticism of multilingual manuscripts unearthed in Khara Khoto.